Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Colossians 4:5-6

5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

V5 begins, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” Calvin ponders the motive for being a witness for Christ in the world and offers three reasons: first, we ought not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man (Leviticus 19:14); second, we ought not provide additional opportunity for the detracting of the honor of the gospel, for the name of Christ to be exposed to derision, or for disturbances and persecutions be stirred up as unbelievers’ hostility increases; third, we must be on guard lest we be defiled by their pollutions and revert to profanity. Vincent Cheung says, “To walk in wisdom toward outsiders would mean that ‘every opportunity is to be snapped up.’ Wisdom also knows the way to take advantage of an opportunity,” which is the exhortation at the end of v5. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Calvin says, “Amidst so great a corruption as prevails in the world we must seize opportunities of doing good, and we must struggle against impediments.” Jesus said, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

V6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Calvin comments simply that Paul “reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I have quoted Vincent Cheung frequently in this study, and sometimes his statements seem harsh. When commenting on this verse, he says, “The grace and salt in Colossians 4:6 refer to an excellence in the quality and content of our speech, so that to equate them with the usage of words and tones that are kind and gentle (often as defined by the culture and not by Scripture in the usual interpretation) is in fact to neutralize it. This excellence of speech could certainly include kind words and tones, but harsh and insulting rebukes are not excluded, as biblical principles and examples conclusively demonstrate.” Cheung goes on to provide a number of New Testament examples (Matthew 23:27-33; Acts 13:10; 23:3; Titus 1:12-13) where Paul and Peter, and even Jesus Himself, speak quite harshly against their opponents; Cheung notes that their language is nevertheless always graceful. I close this section with Cheung’s parting comments:

“If for some reason, I am still forbidden to preach the Bible using it’s own language and expressions, then what am I allowed to do? …Am I at least allowed to show people what it says? But the Bible says that unbelievers are stupid, evil, wicked, depraved, immoral, impure, greedy, idolatrous, superstitious, enslaved, dead, deceitful, malicious, slanderous, unjust, perverted, filthy, whores, dogs, pigs, donkeys, snakes, brutes…these are all biblical descriptions of unbelievers that come to mind at the moment, and the list goes on and on and on. It also uses some strong words against professing believers who are in error. These are the things that they will read if I were to show them the Bible – the same things that they would hear if I were to speak them. So if I am not allowed to say what the Bible says, am I allowed to show people the Bible? Or am I supposed to hide the book? Am I expected to burn it too? Perhaps this is the true desire of my critics, and only the destruction of the Bible would make them happy, even though some of them claim to be Christians. However, ‘If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ’ (Galatians 1:10). Therefore, I will continue to both speak and show what the Bible says.”

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